Category Archives: Calvin @ 500

The 2013 Calvin Reading Group

Reblogging, from Lumbering Brown:  The 2013 Calvin Reading Group.

November 16, 2012 by Aaron

I spoke on the phone yesterday with Bliss Spillar IV, with whom previously I had only limited but encouraging interaction with over Twitter and Facebook. He’s the kind of man you only have to talk to once to know he has great enthusiasm for the gospel of Jesus Christ, and a love for the people in his community. He is a self-professed “Jack of all Trades and Master of Few”, assistant to the lead pastor at Portico Churchblogger, as well as theActs29 Network coordinator for the Mid-Atlantic region. And pertaining to this post, he is the organizer of the upcoming 2013 Calvin Reading Group. Bliss was both grateful and surprised to have discovered that his webpage, which is dedicated to this reading group, was featured among the link list (“Right Now“, Nov. 14th) on the Gospel Coalition. I was too. It’s great that this reading group is getting some exposure, and I hope to proliferate that exposure by blogging about it.

I spoke with Bliss because he had accidentally been kicked out of his own Facebook group. He subsequently made me an admin so I could allow him back in. Feeling like I should at least talk to the brother, I obtained his number and gave him a ring. My involvement now is only as an administrator on the group’s Facebook page. However, I plan to be participating in our future, online Google hangouts (facilitated by Bliss), and chronicling the group’s progression here on my blog.

As any one of the three people who read Lumbering Brown, or anyone who knows me otherwise would attest to, I am the most milquetoast and understated advocate of Reformed theology (summarily referred to as Calvinism). Irony intended. On January 1st, I will be joining the growing flock of Christians who desire community, interaction, accountability and mutual-edification, as we endeavor to read through one of the greatest and most influential pieces of literature in the history of Christian theology: John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion.

For anyone new to the Reformed tradition, anyone for or against Calvinism, anyone who has been Reformed all of their lives, or anyone simply curious, I encourage you to join. Make sure you check out Bliss’ blog for details.

A Helpful Resource (so I hear):

Greg Forster is interviewed by Justin Taylor about his book, “The Joy of Calvinism.” Admittedly, I haven’t read the book. But it is sitting on one of our shelves, dog-eared from both my wife’s reading and the one person to whom she had lent it. I’ve heard nothing but good about it.

I will post other resources from my own bookshelf in the months to come.

Misunderstanding Calvinism? A Very Lively (and Sometimes Ugly) Facebook Exchange

Recently there was a very lively exchange on my Facebook page about Calvinism. I will reproduce the conversation for you here, removing unrelated comments:

ME: Just completed my first church meeting at my new church home! Even my Presbyterian and CHBC friends would have been impressed. I only have seen as much love in a church meeting at Reformation Alive Baptist Church.

FB Friend1: Hm-m, I’ve never seen love at a reformed church; only coldness and pride.

FBF1: But since Calvinists deny that Jesus died for most people, then I can see why I haven’t found love at a Reformed church.

FBF2: That’s interesting. I go to a Reformed church and it is one of the most loving and caring places I’ve been in. I think it’s kind of cold and prideful to judge a church based on past experiences.

ME: (FBF1), may I apologize for my cold brethren? Calvinists should be the holiest, happiest, most humble, and most grateful people in the world. A simple reading of Tit. 3:1-8 should lead any Calvinist to the greatest humility. If you are ever in DC, come experience loads of love at New Canaan Baptist Church. I have been blessed by real love at this church.

FBF1: LOL. They sure do pride themselves on their humility…and everything else. :) That’s their downfall. “He who exalts himself will be humbled.” Indeed. :)

ME: (FBF1), not “they,” but “some.” :-)

FBF1: All 5 pt. Calvinists and “all’ means “all” like Jesus being the Savior of ALL men. ;) 1 Tim. 4:10. :)

ME: (FBF1), that’s funny! But not all Calvinists are proud; not one believer is as meek as Jesus.

FBF1: Sorry, Eric, but any group of people who disagrees with God that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world are ruled by pride because they think they know better than God does.

FBF1: So stay away from the Reformed church. What they’re showing you is not real love any more than any cult shows true love even though the cult members see it as love.

ME: (FBF1), that would be pride! But I have met many, many humble and loving Calvinists. I am sorry you have met proud Calvinists.

FBF1: Eric, they are preaching a false gospel. Since they deny that Jesus died for most people, they can’t even preach repentance or salvation! And since they don’t know who Jesus DID die for then they can’t preach repentance to ANYONE without lying to most people. But that’s what heresy does; it backfires on the heretics the most. So just stick to the bible, Eric. You seem like a great guy and I don’t want to see you brainwashed. take care. :)

FBF3: (FBF1), Calvinists neither deny that Jesus is the Savior of all, nor do they deny that he is especially the Savior of all who believe (1 Tim. 4:10). Calvinists understand that everyone’s salvation depends on God’s kindness, philanthropy, mercy and grace, not on works of righteousness which we have done (Titus 3:3-7). This divine initiative kills our pride, so that our boast is in God alone, and we walk humbly with God and others.

ME: Thanks, (FBF1), for your loving concern for me! I am grateful. I will try not to get brainwashed. I will stay open to views and opinions of others with discernment but not rigidity. I am glad Jesus died for us. I will stay aware of the sort of Calvinist you mentioned. May the Lord grant you a chance to run into one who loves people with the love of Christ. Blessings!

FBF4: (FBF1), what ‘Calvinists’ have YOU been in contact with? What you describe is a strawman (at least in terms of theology and evangelism). I’ve been Reformed for a bit o’ 12 years now and I’ve met arrogant Calvinists, arrogant and argumentative non-Calvinists who seek out Calvinists to argue with, as well as humble folk who only seek to know and do what the scriptures say we are to do and believe.

FBF1: Let’s see, CH Spurgeon, AW Pink, John Piper, John MacArthur, and every other 5 pt. Calvinist who denies that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world. I’ve already blocked hundreds of them on FB. :)

FBF1: But like all cults, Calvinists love their false teachers because their teachers are the one[s] who gave them that false gospel because the bible says the opposite. :) But actually, it’s not a “gospel” at all that they preach because the word “gospel” means good news. And it’s definitely NOT good news to claim that Jesus didn’t love most people. :)

FBF4: Yet, you have Eric, Mark Dever, Justin Taylor and others on your friends list. LOL. Have a nice night (FBF1). Methinks you’re kidding around. LOL

FBF5: (FBF1), your rant should have ended with Prof. Redmond’s 1st or 2nd Response… now you are becoming a stumbling block and offending people…. aside from the issue of doctrine.

FBF6: Wow!! Read the dialogue and still I’m taken back a few steps. 5 point Calvinism I guess you gave in on that fifth point? If that’s what I’m taking from the dialogue.

FBF7: “He who is spiritual” is the one who seeks his brother’s repentance. He who is angry has their own plank to repent of… I suppose the shock of some at Limited Atonement causes many to bristle up. However, to be unloving and to call people names and at the same time to call a whole group of people unloving, generalizing them, is inconsistent. Hatred in the heart is murder (FBF1). Smug smiley faces don’t help either. Truthfully, everyone limits the atonement except for Universalists, either in its intent or in its application. I don’t know if or where (FBF1) may have gone to seminary, but pray for her, that she would see the truth and that the love of God would bring her to love her fellow man. (FBF1), I forgive you. You obviously don’t understand what Calvinists believe.

FBF1: (FBF4), I have MANY on my friend list to witness to.:) Calvinists and other false teachers need to hear the truth from SOMEONE! So as usual, a Calvinist has made a false judgment. :)

FBF1: I’m becoming a stumbling block to false teachers, (FBF5). So far not ONE person besides me has discussed what Scripture says about what Calvinists believe because most people don’t care if they blaspheme God; they’re just out to defend themselves, not Scripture. Like the Pharisees, one of the mottos of Calvinists is; “Let’s defend ourselves, not Scripture.” :) And you guys are only confirming that. :)

FBF8: (FBF1) — sister (assuming you are a sister in Christ), this is one of the most unloving, wrongly aggressive, fight-picking series of comments I’ve ever read on FB. I would encourage you to repent of this ungodly insistence on being “right” on a matter that sincere, Bible-believing Christians have disagreed on for the last 1,60 years. I would think this is one of the very things you would accuse Calvinists of.

FBF1: Well, since it’s not a sin to correct and rebuke people who blaspheme God, (FBF8) (2 Tim. 3:16), I have nothing to repent for. :) The people who should repent are the ones who could care less about what Scripture says but only seek flattery and praise. That would be the ones on here who are angry that I exposed the heresy of Calvinism. But at least I haven’t called them snakes and a brood of vipers yet like Jesus called the Pharisees, but I probably will if I listen to them defend their blasphemy any longer. So I’ll bow out from this thread now. Good day. :)

FBF5: The thing about it was that I did not see Prof. Redmond claim the attributes you prescribed to a Calvinist, so why defend something he does not endorse. I’m not a Calvinist so I’m not speaking on it. I’m purely speaking on your approach, which isn’t helping anyone on this post. As you can see they have rejected your words; might I say it is probably because they are w/o salt.

FBF9: Its interesting that this post was about a man rejoicing in the unity that he experienced in a church meeting, which is a sign of the presence on the Holy Spirit. Perhaps the comment stream is a sign that there will always be opposition even when there’s unity.

FBF1 de-friended me on Facebook immediately after the exchange.

Calvinism often takes a bad rap, and sometimes it is deserved. The theology is God-honoring, but we, the ardent supporters, sometime display that we all are sinful people when we are arguing for Calvinism’s precious truths. How grateful, therefore, I am for Kenneth Stewarts’, Ten Myths About Calvinism. (Kenneth graciously signed a copy for me while I was visiting Covenant College this past week.) Ken addresses several of the concerns that contribute to wrongful ideas about Calvinism. Earlier this year I noted how helpful is Greg Forster’s, The Joy of Calvinism, in this same vein.

I think it is important to give a fair hearing to positions we oppose by reading primarily literature by those holding the opposing view(s). If you have been wounded by a Calvinistic congregation, a self-proclaiming Calvinist, or the way in which Calvinist theology has been taught, I would encourage you to read about the richness of this tradition from its own writers. Then evaluate it on its own merits, and on whether or not your experience is reflective of what Calvinism actually teaches. Please also forgive my fellow Calvinists and me where we have erred in our treatment of you and others. I am sorry for our lack of love on some occasions.

Listed below are several other works I have found helpful for explaining Calvinism (but not Calvinists):

The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God

Charity and Its Fruits

For Calvinism

Whosoever He Wills

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Killing Calvinism

Here is a helpful way to whether Calvinism teaches what Scripture teaches:

1. Year 1: Read through the whole of Scripture over the course of a year, while working with a solid devotional on Scripture, and working through a confession like the Westminster or Westminster Shorter.

2. Year 2: Follow that year by working through the whole of Scripture for another year, while also working with a solid devotional on Scripture, and work through Calvin’s Institutes (with a reading plan, and some encouragement).

3. Year 3: Take a third year to work through the whole of Scripture for another year, while working with a solid devotional on Scripture, rereading the Institutes, and working through one book of the Bible utilizing one of Calvin’s commentaries (like Psalms or Acts). I would suggest you work through a book from which your Pastor is preaching that year so that you do not feel overwhelmed by too much study.

Interview with Greg Forster: Thoughts on Free Will in “A Statement of Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation”

Earlier this year I read through Greg Forster’s, The Joy of Calvinism: Knowing God’s Personal, Unconditional, Irresistible, Unbreakable Love (Crossway, 2012). I enjoyed the book immensely and would recommend it as a very good primer for a historical understanding of Calvinistic soteriology.

Part of Forster’s argument in The Joy of Calvinism is that it would be prudent for Calvinists to become more sensitive to the way key terms of the debate are used today, as opposed to the way they were used during the 16th century Reformation debate. As such, I have invited Forster to give me his thoughts on, “A Statement of Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation” – a work by a group of Southern Baptist church and seminary leaders that decidedly holds a different view of salvation than a Calvinistic position.

Greg, Thank you for allowing me to interview you for this blog. First, so that I might introduce you to my readers, please talk some about the subject of your PhD dissertation.

That’s sort of the academic version of asking me for my personal testimony – and in my case the two are linked because my dissertation work was instrumental to my conversion. I was raised outside the church and was a deist at the time I started working on my thesis. I wanted to write about the reconciliation of religion and politics in the context of religious freedom – how do we maintain a moral order in society if we don’t share a religion? That has always struck me as the key question of our time. I wanted to explore how we could morally justify enforcing the basic rules of social life (don’t kill, don’t steal, keep your promises, help your neighbors) in terms that people of different faiths could all agree on with a clear conscience and fidelity to their beliefs. Well, the short version is that in order to do this I had to read a lot of Christian writing, and it challenged all my highly cherished intellectual prejudices. God used that as the central way in which I came to realize the truth of Christianity.

What sort of response do you have to the SBC document, “A Statement of Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation?”   

My interest in this document is kind of indirect, but in a way that I hope most people will find relevant. This is an internal dispute within the SBC, so on the most immediate level it’s not really my business. I love Baptists dearly, but I am not one of them, so I have no desire to stick my nose in where I’m sure it’s not wanted. However, the document – and the public responses by people from a variety of positions – does interest me very much as someone who has studied the way public debates about Calvinism are conducted. I think this moment provides a great opportunity for us Calvinists to reflect critically about how these debates are framed. The underlying theological disputes are real, obviously, but one point a lot of people have stressed in this debate is that we seem to be talking past each other on a number of issues. I think that’s true, and I think we could all do each other a great brotherly service by bending over backwards to be clear with each other, to make allowances for the fact that different people may be using the same words to mean different things, and explore areas of agreement (or potential agreement) with the same enthusiasm we bring to areas of disagreement.

You wrote about “free will” and “free response” in your book. What do you see in this document that connects to that discussion?

The statement mentions human freedom in various forms nine times, and the same concept or related concepts are also touched on frequently using other terms, such as ability or capacity language (e.g. “capable of responding”). To affirm human “freedom” in responding to the gospel is clearly one of the central concerns, if not the most central concern, of the authors. Traditionally, Calvinists have resisted using freedom language when describing the human response to the gospel. I understand those concerns, but I think we are probably creating more confusion than clarity. This Calvinist allergy to the language of human freedom goes back to the 16th century, when the debate between Rome and the Reformers was framed on both sides in terms of two alternatives: you are born a slave to sin (the Reformation view) or you are born free to choose whether to be a slave to sin (the Roman view). It was a choice between “free will” or “enslaved will.” We Protestants denied human freedom in this context because we had to affirm that people are slaves to sin by their nature. However, starting in the 17th century or so, in the context of the Enlightenment, the language of human freedom came to carry a different meaning. The debate in that context was between those who thought human beings were morally responsible for their own actions and those who thought human beings were really just products of their genetics and environment. Now it’s a choice between “free will” or “determined will.” In that context, Christianity has to affirm free will in order to affirm that people are morally responsible for their actions. And this continues to be the way in which most people use the language of human freedom. So I wonder to what extent we Calvinists are inviting misunderstanding by our reluctance to affirm human free will, given that today, pretty much everyone other than Calvinists understands “free will” to mean “morally responsible will.” If we want to reach people, it’s our job to learn to learn and speak their language, not their job to learn ours – just like with foreign mission work. You know, even Calvin himself said that if “free will” means we are morally responsible, he agrees that we have free will.

Practically speaking, in terms of one’s personal, individual, daily walk before Christ, what are some significances of holding to this view of salvation? Similarly, what difference, if any, might it make for the corporate working(s)/ministry of a local assembly of believers?

It’s hard for people to believe that Calvinism makes a big difference in the way we live out our faith, but I think that’s because we Calvinists haven’t connected our theology to our practice well enough. The Calvinist view is that Jesus saves you personally rather than creating a salvation system for people in general and then hoping you get plugged into it. This ought to make a huge difference to our practical piety for a number of reasons. It means you know that Jesus did all the effective work of salvation – you did freely choose to accept him, but your free choice was not a contributing factor to the work of your salvation. So you will find it easier to give Jesus all the glory, and to be free from fear that you might lose your salvation by losing your devotion to him. You can quit viewing the function of the worship service in terms of whipping up frenzies of pious emotion through sheer willpower, and instead come before God with self-emptying trust. You will know that God values you more than anything in the universe; he wasn’t willing to subordinate the work of saving you to any other concerns, but smashed right through all obstacles to save you, even the obstacle of your own sinful enmity toward him. And you will know that God does not just cooperate with your heart but actually works miracles inside your heart that transcend your own psychology, which means you can lean on him for sanctification instead of feeling like it’s up to you to do it in your strength.

Other than your own recent work, what are some other beginner and intermediate titles I could recommend to laymen to read on free will, free choice, free response, and the 16th century Reformation debates?

For a long time, the classic popular defense of Calvinism for the layman has been R.C. Sproul’s Chosen by God. A lot of the newer books are also good, but I’m an old-fashioned kind of guy, so I still recommend Sproul for beginners who are looking for an introduction to the formal theological defense of Calvinism. Sproul also wrote a book called Willing to Believe that is specifically about the history of the free will question in Christian theology, from the early church to the present. If you want a more well-rounded human look at Calvin the man and the debates of his time, a book that I recommend very highly is John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine and Doxology, edited by Buck Parsons.

The Joy of Calvinism!

I am enjoying The Joy of Calvinism immensely! The book’s analysis of the complexity of God’s love is enlightening, fulfilling, and refreshing. I would highly encourage you to get a copy. From the Westminster Bookstore website:

Greg Forster on “The Joy of Calvinism” – An Interview by Justin Taylor from Crossway on Vimeo.

Publisher’s Description: The Bible’s command to “rejoice continually” seems impossible and, frankly, unreasonable. Yet despite the apparent difficulty in fulfilling this commandment, Gregory Forster argues that Calvinism holds the key–namely that “real Calvinism is all about joy.”

Forster passionately holds to this belief, and systematically demonstrates it by addressing popular misconceptions of what Calvinism is and is not. Dismantling negative expressions of Calvinist theology, Forster positively reiterates its fundamental tenents, showing how God’s love is the driving force behind every facet of Calvin’s doctrine of salvation.

Written accessibly, The Joy of Calvinism is an important addition to the conversation surrounding Calvinism and its advocates. Skeptics and those who have had negative perceptions of Calvinism, as well as Calvinists themselves, will find this a helpful resource for clearing up the controversies and grasping the winsomeness of the doctrines of grace.

An Interview with the Author:
Greg Forster on The Joy of Calvinism – An Interview by Justin Taylor fromCrossway on Vimeo.

208 Pages
Published February 2012

About the Author(s): Greg Forster (PhD, Yale University) is the author of five books and numerous print articles, and a regular contributor to First Thoughts, The Public Discourse, and Jay P. Greene’s Blog. His writing covers theology, economics, political philosophy and education policy. He is also a program director at the Kern Family Foundation and a senior fellow at the Friedman Foundation.

 

Another work by Marilynne Robinson

This morning Justin Taylor posted notice of Marilynne Robinson’s forthcoming work, When I Was A Child, I Read Books: Essays. You might also wish to know that Robinson previously co-produced a good introduction to the work of John Calvin entitled, John Calvin: Steward of God’s Covenant: Selected Writings. For someone wishing to read Calvin, but hesitant to read the full Institutes or having no need to pick up his sermons or commentaries, Robinson’s work is a good place to start.

Description at amazon.com:

This selection of the writings of John Calvin (1509—1564) is the first for general readers to appear in many years. It showcases his powerful legacy, which has had far-reaching consequences for the development of religion and culture in Western Europe and in the shaping of American identity.

Calvin was a prodigious preacher and writer, and his sermons, Bible commentaries, tracts, and letters fill dozens of volumes. The works chosen for John Calvin: Steward of God’s Covenant highlight ideas central to the Reformation but also to his influence on modern life, e.g., the importance of a work ethic and the notion of being “called” to action in the world; his belief in universal education for boys and girls; and his belief in the sanctity and freedom of individual conscience. Calvin’s theology of the “elect” of God motivated the English and Dutch Calvinists who settled the Atlantic seaboard, their Promised Land. The traditions of their communities and churches and laws produced the widespread present-day American belief in a divinely favored national destiny.

In her brilliant preface to this edition, Pulitzer Prize—winning novelist Marilynne Robinson makes the clearest connection between John Calvin’s own biblical and patristic heritage and the heritage he in turn left the modern world.

“Epistle to the Reader,” Calvin’s Institutes [1559]

I love reading Calvin, of whom Karl Barth said, “Calvin is a cataract, a primeval forest, a demonic power, something directly down from the Himalayas, absolutely Chinese, strange, mythological; I lack completely the means, the suction cups, even to assimilate this phenomenon, not to speak of presenting it adequately,” (Karl Barth, Revolutionary Theology in the Making, trans. James D. Smart [Richmond: John Knox Press, 1964], 101, quoted in Douglas Wilson, A Study Guide to Calvin’s Institutes [Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2011], 14). Calvin is throughly Biblical, deeply read (of the Church Fathers in particular), wittingly polemical (primarily against the “papists”), and profoundly colorful as he speaks in simple yet lofty and holy terms about the Creator.  (Members of the Way living centuries after him would do well to read Scripture with Calvin’s Institutes and commentaries close at hand.) In reflecting on the material in his “Epistle to the Reader” section, I am struck and encouraged by three things:  1) Calvin was shocked by the success – widespread reading and reception – of the Institutes; 2) although maligned maliciously by his enemies, he would not be deterred from his task by false accusations fueled by the Evil One; and 3) while making a text for training future pastors and doctors of the church, he thought the Institutes should be accessible to anyone who comprehends what he wrote – that is, a reading member of the church should be able to pick up his book and enjoy it.

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Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion, by John Calvin

“Epistle to the Reader,” [1559].

In the first edition of this work, having not the least expectation of the success which God, in his boundless goodness, has been pleased to give it, I had, for the greater part, performed my task in a perfunctory manner (as is usual in trivial undertakings); but when I understood that it had been received, by almost all the pious with a favour which I had never dared to ask, far less to hope for, the more I was sincerely conscious that the reception was beyond my deserts, the greater I thought my ingratitude would be, if, to the very kind wishes which had been expressed towards me, and which seemed of their own accord to invite me to diligence, I did not endeavour to respond, at least according to my humble ability. This I attempted not only in the Second Edition, but in every subsequent one the work has received some improvement. But though I do not regret the labour previously expended, I never felt satisfied until the work was arranged in the order in which it now appears. Now I trust it will approve itself to the Judgment of all my readers. As a clear proof of the diligence with which I have laboured to perform this service to the Church of God, I may be permitted to mention, that last winter, when I thought I was dying of quartan ague, the more the disorder increased, the less I spared myself, in order that I might leave this book behind me, and thus make some return to the pious for their kind urgency. I could have wished to give it sooner, but it is soon enough if good enough. I shall think it has appeared in good time when I see it more productive of benefit than formerly to the Church of God. This is my only wish.

And truly it would fare ill with me if, not contented with the approbation of God alone, I were unable to despise the foolish and perverse censures of ignorant as well as the malicious and unjust censures of ungodly men. For although, by the blessing of God, my most ardent desire has been to advance his kingdoms and promote the public good,—although I feel perfectly conscious, and take God and his angels to witness, that ever since I began to discharge the office of teacher in the Church, my only object has been to do good to the Church, by maintaining the pure doctrine of godliness, yet I believe there never was a man more assailed, stung, and torn by calumny [as well by the declared enemies of the truth of God, as by many worthless persons who have crept into his Church—as well by monks who have brought forth their frocks from their cloisters to spread infection wherever they come, as by other miscreants not better than they].  After this letter to the reader was in the press, I had undoubted information that, at Augsburg, where the Imperial Diet was held, a rumour of my defection to the papacy was circulated, and entertained in the courts of the princes more readily than might have been expected.

This, forsooth, is the return made me by those who certainly are not unaware of numerous proofs of my constancy—proofs which, while they rebut the foul charge, ought to have defended me against it, with all humane and impartial judges. But the devil, with all his crew, is mistaken if he imagines that, by assailing me with vile falsehoods, he can either cool my zeal, or diminish my exertions. I trust that God, in his infinite goodness, will enable me to persevere with unruffled patience in the course of his holy vocation. Of this I give the pious reader a new proof in the present edition.

I may further observe, that my object in this work has been, so to prepare and train candidates for the sacred office, for the study of the sacred volume, that they may both have an easy introduction to it, and be able to prosecute it with unfaltering step; for, if I mistake not, I have given a summary of religion in all its parts, and digested it in an order which will make it easy for any one, who rightly comprehends it, to ascertain both what he ought chiefly to look for in Scripture, and also to what head he ought to refer whatever is contained in it. Having thus, as it were, paved the way, as it will be unnecessary, in any Commentaries on Scripture which I may afterwards publish, to enter into long discussions of doctrinal points, and enlarge on commonplaces, I will compress them into narrow compass. In this way much trouble and fatigue will be spared to the pious reader, provided he comes prepared with a knowledge of the present work as an indispensable prerequisite. The system here followed being set forth as in a mirror in all my Commentaries, I think it better to let it speak for itself than to give any verbal explanation of it.

Farewell, kind reader: if you derive any benefit from my labours, aid me with your prayers to our heavenly Father.

Geneva, 1st August 1559.

The zeal of those whose cause I undertook,Has swelled a short defence into a book.

“I profess to be one of those who, by profiting, write, and by writing profit.”—Augustine, Epist. 7.

Calvin at Ps. 26:1 on “Vindicate me, O Lord….”

“When God leaves us for a time to the injuries and petulance of our enemies, he seems to neglect our cause; but when he restrains them from assailing us at their pleasure he clearly demonstrates that the defense of our cause is the object of his care. Let us, therefore, learn from the example of David, when we are destitute of man’s aid, to have recourse to the judgment-seat of God, and to rely upon his protection.”  John Calvin, Commentary on the Psalms, comments on Ps. 26:1. See also Heart Aflame.

Finis

 

Finis.

 

 

Calvin Catechism: Fri June 26 Q 180 The Rest of Servants

buffalo sleepingFri June 26 Q 180 The Rest of Servants

 
180. What do you mean by saying that this commandment is also given to provide for the relief of servants?  
To give some relaxation to those who are under the power of others. And likewise, this tends to maintain a common polity. For everyone accustoms himself to labour for the rest of the time, when there is one day for rest.

 

It is of significance to see that within the Law God expresses his desire for all of his creatures to rest. This is his hope for his covenant people Israel, their children, their servants, and those who are aliens among them. This is his will even for all of their beasts (cf. Isa 11:6-9; 65:25; Hos 2:18). This is also the hope of God for all who are created in his image, for if the unregenerate were to hear of the fame of God’s name through the witness of Israel to the nations, they too could have come under the Law of God through faith. They too would come into the legislated Sabbath rest.

As human rulers never fully demonstrate the rule of God in justice, compassion, truth, kindness or faithfulness, those under human rule will tire of imperfect work scenarios. Labor, since the fall, is with great effort, rather than with the effortlessness labor that would have been Adam’s joy in the Garden (cf. Gen 2:15; 3:17-19). Work occurs in a fallen world rather than in a place of complete pleasure. All workers need occasional relief from this unredeemed work environment. The Law is a measure of God’s grace to his people.

In wisdom, the Creator and Lawgiver also provided the Law of the Sabbath so that we might be motivated to work. That is, by limiting the day of rest to one day per week, the habit and character that is to be formed in his people is that of working regularly, faithfully, and cheerful the other days of the week. Six days of work make us long for rest; one day of rest cultivates the practice of working. Ultimately relief from work will come to the servants of God through Christ, when he establishes his remaining Sabbath rest. To this our labors and rest point every week.

Calvin Catechism: Fri June 19 Q. 174: Sabbath, Sanctification and Rest

Calvin Catechism: Fri June 19 Q. 174: Sabbath, Sanctification and Rest

 

174. Is  this to be done only one day a week?
This is to be done continually. After we have once begun, we must continue all our life.

 

 
The Catechism continues to probe the question of spiritual rest by recognizing its role in our sanctification, not simply in our justification. In justification, we rest from attempts to work before him or merit his favor. Instead, we wholly depend on Christ for rest, for it is through him that God declares us righteous: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” (Mt 11:29). The ability to find salvation as rest stands on Jesus’ ministry of providing the work of salvation. In contrast, for us, “This is the work of God, that [we] believe in him whom he has sent,” (Jn 6:29).

In addition to resting in justification, we are also called to rest in our sanctification. In our continuous obedience to him and his making of us holy, we are not to think that it is our effort that achieves his holiness and blessing. It is not our faithfulness before him that sanctifies us, but the faithful work of Christ to make us faithful before him even when we are faithless and unfaithful (cf. I Thess 5:23-24; 2 Tim 2:13). In weakness and frailty of righteousness, we rely on Christ by the power of the Spirit. The only other alternative his to accomplish good and evil works in the power of our own human effort—that is, without crucifying the flesh, (see Q. 173).

However, unlike the one time act of resting in him for justification before God, the rest of sanctification continues (with no pun intended). We are to rely on the power of the Spirit continually, denying the remnants of our Adamic nature continually, doing so with holy warfare daily until we finally rest in him eternally. In this war for rest, Scripture and prayer must attend to us daily and unhurriedly, as these are the means by which the Spirit accomplishes his work in us. Scripture provides words of rest, for we hear words from a God who is true and we are thusly assured that he will keep his promises to us. Prayer – which is the means of drawing upon the Spirit, as God is pleased to respond in mercy – provides the power of rest—release from ourselves and reliance upon him alone. The rest of Scripture and the Spirit cannot await the Sabbath. For without these we tire in our nature and are too worn to be holy before him on any given day.